I remember reading an article once - years ago when I was a girl - entitled something along the lines of, "A Mom's Advice to Her Daughter Going Off to College." One thing I vaguely recall was something like, "Flossing works. But only if you do it. Like sit-ups, if you quit, the rot sets in." Or perhaps it was vice versa, but you get the idea.
"The rots sets in" quickly, too, I discovered this morning. Every year, when we gather here on the shores of NC for a family reunion, my sister and my father and I go walking early in the mornings before anyone else is up. Our husbands go jogging, and my sister and I take our dogs and our dad and go power walking. Well, that's what we usually do.
This year we did more "walking" and less "power." Why? Because I couldn't handle it... I couldn't keep pace with them, so I slowed them down. My younger sister has always been more sporty than I am, and she continues to work her body to keep it healthy and strong as she approaches forty. My father, although past sixty, has also kept himself extremely fit since his college football days. (He is the kids' official PE teacher, and he works them pretty much to death three days a week.)
Although Dad and I used to walk together every morning, this past year I bowed out in favor of some spiritual, mental, emotional, and practical preparation each weekday morning for the homeschool day ahead. Though this was very good for me in all of those many ways, apparently it wasn't so very good for my body. The "rot" has set in.
And so have about thirty extra pounds. Sometime over the past five years or so, I have slowly gained forty pounds, only ten of which I've managed to take back off. I still weigh about thirty pounds too much, though I'd be content to lose just ten or fifteen more, really. And why is that so difficult? Well, mostly because the things we know we should do in order to stay fit and trim, work, "but only if you do it."
For a variety of reasons I'm sure I'll explore and ponder more deeply as these next weeks go on, I have become a person who doesn't "set stakes in the ground." What do I mean by that? At the homeschool convention we went to, most all of the speakers we heard spoke of acting with purpose and deliberateness. This sort of decisive action has become all but absent in my life. Whether through bad theological teaching, or sound theology improperly understood and applied, or simply the laziness of the flesh, I have become a person who feels that I can't - or shouldn't - determine to do something simply because it should be done, and then set about doing it. This "grace, misunderstood and misapplied" mindset has resulted in a total transformation - and not for the better, either - of the person I tend to naturally be. I am now sometimes paralyzed to act, in ways that I know are good and beneficial and necessary in my life, for fear of being "legalistic" or "missing the grace."
So, whether it is the teaching itself that is just a little bit "off," or just my interpretations of what I think I'm hearing, I am determining to ignore the voices in my head that prevent me from doing so, and to set a few stakes in the ground. One speaker we heard in Richmond spoke of the time early in his life as a father that he vowed, both to God and to his family, "Every day, if (he was) in town and alive, (he was) leading family devotions." I'm sure he missed some days over the years. I'm sure on those days he was grateful for grace. I'm sure he understood that he was not acting in this manner to win God's favor or to earn His love; he simply wanted the blessings and benefits in his family commensurate with being in the Word together on a consistent basis. And I'm sure he got them, in large part because he set the stake in the ground, set the goal, fixed his eyes on the means of grace that would enable this benefit in his and his family's life.
I'm ready to do the same, no matter how many seemingly contradictory messages about "not trying harder" I hear in the meantime. I want to pursue Jesus, yes! I want to know Him more. I know that, "It is God who works in me both to will and to act according to His good purpose" (Philippians 2:13). But I'm ready to cooperate with His work in my heart and in my life with a little decisive action... a little "trying harder," if you will. I need His mercy every moment I fail, and I need it even more every time I succeed, but I'm ready to have it with me as I walk the road of some stakes in the ground.
The first one? I need to get back to some regular physical exercise in my life. This morning revealed to me just how detrimental my neglect of my body has been. I read somewhere about a study demonstrating that regular physical exercise is as effective as anti-depressant medications in treating symptoms of depression. It is no secret that excess weight is more easily controlled with regular exercise, and that people have significantly more energy for the tasks of the day with regular physical activity. Physical exercise reduces stress, the effects of which can be deadly on the body.
So, here's stake #1, established this cloudy Father's Day at the NC shore: Every day that I'm uninjured and alive, I will practice one of the three S's of exercise. Each day will contain either Sixty minutes of intense cardio activity, Sixteen minutes of targeted strength training for a particular part of the body, or Sex (which I will initiate at the end of the day, if one or the other of the other S's didn't happen).
Sounds like a plan... or at least a really great Father's Day gift!